Having been through six major break ups (yes. six. I get around in the land of committed relationships, so what), I'm here to provide some thoughts and advice I've acquired through my own experiences. This post is one that has been a long time coming, and I hope it has a little bit of something that everyone can relate to.
I'm going to keep it straightforward by saying this to begin with:
Breakups are fucking hard.
It doesn't matter if you're the one that got dumped, or if you did the dumping, or if the break up was completely mutual. It doesn't matter if the break up was a result of cheating or lying or if it was result of two people growing a part and falling out of love. It doesn't even matter if the relationship lasted many years or if it only lasted a few months. Many years=a lot of time invested in that one person, and entire life chapter of memories. A few months=a lot of time thinking about the "what ifs", the "what could have come", and the feelings of rejection and defeat for not even being able to make something last more than a few months. Whatever the case may be, break ups are rough.
And I hate to say this to you, but the hard truth is this:
You can't skip the part where you are sad, depressed or bummed out about things ending. You just can't.
You have to give yourself that time to mourn. The same way, you must mourn when someone passes. Of course, it's not the same thing, but.... in ways it is. Because let's be real here, when you break up with someone, you're basically saying goodbye to that relationship forever. Even if you are able to maintain some sort of friendship with that person (which, really, how often is that the case. And how often is that even healthy or normal or not awkward or fair to anyone else you date in the future), you are saying goodbye to a dynamic you shared with that person. And if that person has deeply wronged you some way, you are probably saying goodbye to that person all together. And it is sad. Of course you should cry and feel depressed. You've lost something that you put a lot of time and energy and heart into. If you didn't feel sad, that would be strange. So do cry. Do feel sad. Do eat ice cream. Do have maybe one night of getting pissed drunk in the company of friends who will take good care of you. Do take a coma of a nap or two. It's ok. Just don't let it go on for forever.
And in the meantime, consider the following:
1. Consider the fact that things didn't work out for a reason. There was something you weren't agreeing on. There was something you did or they did that was not right. There was something that was missing. And if you cared enough, you tried as best you could. You tried to agree, you tried to forgive, you tried to locate that missing puzzle piece behind the couch somewhere, but it didn't present itself. Or maybe it did, but then it didn't fit right. Things didn't work out for a reason. And that reason is waiting for you just around the corner somewhere. Be patient.
Someone once said to me (I wish I could remember who), "Keep in the mind that when you do find that person who is meant for you.. that person who treats you better than anyone else and is everything you imagined and more.. keep in mind that he probably broke several hearts along the way. He probably went through a lot of bullshit, bullshit that was his, and bullshit from others, to be the man he is today... for you. Maybe your current relationship didn't work out so that you both could be better for the right people when they eventually come along."
Golly gee Wills. When I heard that, it was like a big giant lightbulb went on, not just in my head, but in my fucking heart. Of course, is it easy to look at that person you've made history with and say, "Well, I guess I was just another one of your guinea pigs." ? Um. NO. Not at all. In fact, it's nearly impossible to think about being anyone's guinea pig in a positive way, because inevitably it is woven in with feelings of inadequacy and rejection. But, when you start looking at the bigger picture, there's much comfort there. There's much comfort in knowing that every failed relationship is a crucial counterpart to what will eventually be a successful one that lasts.
Think about it.
2. Consider what is going on in your life outside of what was your relationship with this person. Do you have a life outside of this person? If the answer is no, then I'm going to be tough by saying, it's probably a good thing you're not in that relationship anymore. It's time to restore balance in your life and re-evaluate what is important to you. Being freshly detached from another person who was taking up a majority of your time, is the best time to make this move. And you know what? Sometimes in the movement of re-evaluting things, you come to realize that there are things you need to work on. Things you need to fix. Nobody likes to admit to their faults... we're all perfect, and everyone else is wrong, not us. We're right. But here's the thing, we're not always right. Take the time to reflect on not just the relationship and why it didn't work, but also you're own life, you're own faults. Sometimes you come to realize that you weren't even in the relationship for the right reasons. Or that you're not even that sad about the break up itself, so much as you are just sad about how your life is going at the moment.
One of the hardest break ups I ever went through was in college. And it's strange because, I don't think I even loved that person as much as I have loved others in the past. (Have I ever even really "loved" anyone, or been truly "in love"? That's a whole different topic). But it was the hardest because I was in the saddest and loneliest place of my life. And in the moment, that college boyfriend of mine was my closest and almost only friend. Losing him was like the worst thing that could have ever happened. But it took losing him to realize that I had a lot of things I needed to work through on my own.. a lot of things in my life that I needed to fix. And had those things been stronger to begin with, maybe our relationship would have faired better. Because the other most real truth in the world is this: A boyfriend or girlfriend can't make you happy. They can only make you happier. If you're not happy to begin with, there will be trouble in paradise. Rest assured.
3. Consider the fact that's it's over. It.is.over. Don't keep holding on. This one is hard. Don't we all build castles in Spain about "getting back together" or them suddenly having a break-through realization that, "you are the one, after all". I'm not saying these things aren't possible, but they aren't likely. And most of the time they aren't genuine. Can I get real again? Often times "I want to get back together" translates "I'm having a hard time filling this void where you used to be. I know we're not right for each other, but I'd rather be with you than have the courage and strength to be alone." And then you get back together. And then you break up again. Not always the case. But yeah, usually the case.
If it makes you feel any better, consider this. As a friend once said to me, "Any person who you've shared a great part of your life with and which whom has made a lasting and respectable impact on you, will always have the opportunity to come back into your life romantically in the future. And vice versa." Along with that, "If it's meant to be, it will be." But you have to give these things time, people. TIME! If you really believe it in your heart of hearts that things are not completely over with this person, that's fine. You might be right. But some hard separation is necessary. Distance/space/time... you have to give it to this person. And you have to give it to yourself. Sometimes things don't work out between two people because of timing.
True story: I know a couple who dated for several years in high school. Then they broke up and they each dated other people. Then they got back together after a few years passing. And now they are happily married. The lesson in this story: they took time to experience other things. Other relationships. Time alone. And time a part.
Do YOU for awhile. Stop focusing on how you can win this person back and start focusing on you. You are a person outside of that person, right? YES. YOU ARE.
4. Consider that in order to make this time of heartbreak less brutal, you should practice all of the following:
a. Eliminate all forms of contact with this person. Seriously. All forms. Start with the damn Facebook. That place is an evil fucking place when you are going through a break up. You want my advice? Block that person. Seriously. Just block them. It's nothing personal towards them. But it is. You don't want to see their face popping up everywhere on your newsfeed, or God forbid, see that they post a happy status.. or a photograph that contains some random girl in it. Do you really want to put yourself through that bullshit? I mean yeah, it's probably just his cousin he never mentioned or a friend (as if "friends" that are girls have ever been OK or comforting). Or maybe IT IS his new girlfriend that just moved in with him a week after you and him broke up (that ass-hole.) Seriously, you have some love for yourself, right? Why is that information necessary for you to view/learn? Just block the dude. Trust me, the strange and masochistic curiosity we have to check up on our ex's is much better left untouched. You'll sleep better at night wondering, instead of KNOWING that he still exists and he's off doing "happy things" that don't involve you anymore. Block the man. You are not being dramatic in doing this, you are being practical and WISE.
With that being said, delete his number from your phone as well. Even if you know it by heart, there's something about removing his NAME from your phone that automatically will make you feel better. And if you don't know his number by heart, then perfect. That'll make it hard to text him... especially at those times when you're drunk at a bar where they are playing a song that reminds you of him. Or those times when you're dunk at a bar.
b. Gather every piece of memorabilia you have with this person and BURN IT.
Just kidding. Don't burn it. Unless, of course, they did something really wretched and it will make you feel supremely better. Then ok, sure, if you want to. But generally speaking, gather every piece of memorabilia you have with this person and put it in a box. Then put your box up high somewhere. And throw away your step ladder.
The bottom line is, you are still going to think about this person. A lot. Only time will heal that dilemna. But until then, why not remove everything you possibly can that reminds you of them? This has always been such a huge help for me. Always.
c. Don't hang out with your mutual friends or show up to social gatherings where this person may be present. Don't! Despite what ANYONE says, you cannot be friends with someone you were in a relationship with immediately after you break up. People don't break up and then the next day show up to a party and have a totally platonic conversation with one another and/or just give each other a "what up" head nod and not feel like complete shit/total sadness. Again, you love yourself, right? So don't trick yourself into thinking that you'll get any satisfaction out of just being "friends" or that seeing them isn't going to be painful. It will be. So just avoid it all costs. Remember. It is over. And if it's not. Hard separation is key.
5. Consider spending time with your friends and your family. Oh yeah. Remember them? They're still there. They've always been there and they always will be. And no matter what happens, it will never be ten kinds of awkward in any case, because you're not sleeping with them.... for one. And for two, they are your friends and your family. Use this broken time to say "yes" when they invite you to do things. And relish in the joy that comes with just having a good time laughing and spending time with awesome people in your life in a completely platonic way. There have been so many times when I have given into hanging out with my sisters or my Mom or a couple of girlfriends post break up, and I've found myself saying, "this is really nice. I've missed doing this so often. These people really make me smile."
One more note: It is totally normal to think and only remember all the good things. The happy things when you lose someone. I've played this game all too often in my head... "but he was perfect." "we were so compatible!" "but he did this and this and this and it was all so sweet" "he knew me" "no one will ever make me feel as comfortable as he did"
I've played alllllll of those things in my head time and time again, with each and every break up, which has only made some things very clear to me over the years:
1. Time heals all.
2. Time reveals all. (Not just the happy, but all the not so happy... all the reasons why it wasn't right, it wasn't all good, and it wasn't healthy.)
3. Time delivers new things. New people. New experiences. And in all of that, we let others in, and we find that there are many people out there that are just as great, if not better.
And finally, really this time, finally. Look around you. You are not alone. There are relationships EVERY DAY that don't work out. Somewhere else, someone is hurting too. Someone else is eating an entire thing of Ben and Jerry's wondering why Aphrodite is being a little bitch to them too. Look at US Weekly, at your televisions, at Yahoo News. Even the beautiful airbrushed celebrities with lots of money and perfect bodies are having failed relationships. You are not alone!
I welcome you to share your tales of trial and error in the land of committed relationships. Have you been through some rough break ups? What has helped you get through them?
Feel free to comment me or even shoot me an e-mail. I am here to offer you all that I have learned and all that I know. At barely 25, it's a hell of a lot more than I could have ever asked for. And you know what? I'm thankful.
Here's to break ups. They happen. And we get through them. That's what we do! So stay fierce. Keep breathing. Let go. And move on.
The real Ryan Gosling is just around the river bend, my friends. You'll see.